How Fast Does Microsoft Surface Pro Perform?

In the last two days, Microsoft Surface Pro reviews have come up everywhere in the Web, and most of them have been about how bulky the tablet is and how bad its battery is. Only a few people have actually taken time to analyze the good things about Surface Pro tablet.

AnandTech has already done quite a bit of speed benchmarks for Surface Pro, and the results are quite charming. Let’s take a look at how fast Microsoft’s new tablet really is.

Surface Pro Vs. Other Tablets

This is the most exciting part of the benchmarks. On all of the tests, Surface Pro performed faster than all those known tablets—iPad, Google Nexus 7, Google Nexus 10, etc., and those smartphones—Motorola Razr i, HTC One X, Google Nexus 4, etc. Most of the reviews that appeared compared Surface Pro with other tablets and mentioned how bulky it is and how low its battery life is.

They forgot to mention how extremely ‘performant’ (borrowed from ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley, who also gave thumbs-down to Surface Pro) this tablet really is.

Here are the results:

Surface Pro vs tablets

Surface Pro vs tablets

Surface Pro vs tablets

Surface Pro Vs. Ultrabooks

This is the main area that we are interested in. Up against smartphones and tablets, Surface Pro has no competition in performance. Among Ultrabooks with more advanced hardware, however, Surface Pro performs only on the average level as we can see.

Surface Pro vs ultrabooks

Surface Pro vs ultrabooks

Surface Pro vs ultrabooks

However, the Ultrabooks competing against Surface Pro are somewhat high-end with good tech specs. If you would spend money to buy one of them, you had better go with Surface Pro instead.

Conclusion

Microsoft Surface Pro is no tablet, but a tablet computer, and there is a difference. In effect, this particular product does give more stellar performance than all other tablets and smartphones. Hence, has to be regarded as one of the Ultrabooks and should be reviewed that way. About battery life, it does give about 4.5 hours and that is actually better than many of the Ultrabooks out there. Also, its weight of 2 pounds is probably the lowest of all Ultrabooks.

What Is This Tizen OS Everybody Is Talking About?

As far as mobile and tablet operating systems go, we have a lot in our hands. There are our big guys, Android and iOS; Windows Phone has come recently and taken a small chunk off the market; and there are upcoming Ubuntu and Firefox OS. You have probably been hearing a lot about Tizen these days, haven’t you?

Tizen is a new mobile operating system that is coming to our world, founded by the Linux Foundation and promoted by the Tizen Association, which has among its members such biggies in the tech world as Intel, Samsung, Sprint, NTT Docomo, Vodafone, Panasonic, Huawei, Fujitsu, etc.

In this article, we will take a detailed analysis of Tizen OS.

What Is Tizen?

You are familiar with Android OS, Apple’s iOS, Windows Phone, etc., right? Tizen is an upcoming operating system that will power tablets and smartphones. But it doesn’t stop just there. It is expected to power much more than that, such as small netbooks (ultrabooks); IVI (In-Vehicle Infotainment) systems such as vehicle navigation, car computers, etc.; and smart TVs.

We haven’t got a lot of information about the operating system yet, but some developers do. In June, Tizen developer hardware became available to a select group of developers. We managed to get this video of the Tizen smartphone by Samsung, thanks to the Handheld Blog:

The device in the video is quite basic, and has a not-so-appealing interface. But you should know it’s a developer device, and it doesn’t represent the final user interface. By September last year, Tizen 2.0 software development kit (SDK) was made available to the developers.

As an operating system, Tizen will provide support for all features that you want based on their availability on hardware—LTE, NFC, etc.

The most important aspect of the OS is that it is a completely open source, open web operating system. This means, it will have support for apps developed for the HTML 5 ecosystem besides native apps.

Tizen Can Run Android Apps

We were looking through this PDF describing the Application Compatibility Layer (ACL) for Tizen from OpenMobile, an organization that provides application compatibility for various platforms. With ACL incorporation, Tizen will be able to run any Android app you get on Google Play. That PDF mentions about 400,000 apps. We found out the PDF was released in Sep, 2011. At that time, Android market had that many apps, while now it has above 600,000 apps, most of which should run on Tizen.

Not only that, the ACL promises the apps will be a hundred per cent compatible and will run as nimbly as they do on a regular Android phone. This is an amazing promise indeed, and it will take away the app ecosystem barrier we find today among smartphone and tablet operating systems.

Webkit & HTML 5 Support

Tizen has support for web browser platform, Webkit. It gives pretty good support for HTML 5. If you read our previous articles about HTML 5, you may probably know it is going to be the next web standard, and also pretty much important for upcoming smartphone apps; Firefox OS and Ubuntu will have full support for HTML 5.

Also, HTML 5 apps are not ‘mobile’ apps, but full-fledged web apps; this means HTML 5 has the capability to become the de-facto standard in mobile app development. In this scenario, Tizen’s amazing support for HTML 5 is a highly welcome thing.

When Is It Expected?

In January, Samsung confirmed that it will release Tizen-based devices to the market sometime this year. It was reported in BloombergBusinessweek. Here’s the statement:

We plan to release new, competitive Tizen devices within this year and will keep expanding the lineup depending on market conditions.

That is the most current information we could get about Tizen. However, due to the release of BlackBerry 10, announcement of Firefox OS, and Ubuntu, we have reason to believe the competition to get fierce this year in the mobile OS market.


[Update: ]

Tizen version 2.0 has been officially announced in the Mobile World Congress Barcelona. The developer devices were manufactured by Samsung and Huawei. The mobile carrier that signed up to release the smartphones with Tizen is France Telecom-Orange. You can find more details at TechCrunch. Here is a pic that TC obtained of the device.

Tizen OS

 

Conclusion

Tizen is backed by some of the biggest companies in the industry. Hardware and chip makers and some of the biggest mobile carriers back Tizen development. This is important. Tizen is the one mobile platform that gets such huge support and backing from big players.

Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility in 2011 has been known to be one of the reasons behind Samsung’s enthusiasm to go out of Android.

If Google has its own hardware manufacturing division, why would it license Android to other OEMs as freely as it does now? Also, manufacturers like Samsung are keen to get unchained from this dependence on the search giant. These are probably the reasons behind the development of Tizen as a full-fledged mobile platform. We will have to wait for the OS to come to the market before we can say anything further.

Sensors on Your Smartphones

Have you ever thought how your smartphone responds to your gestures and movements so accurately? When you are playing a racing game on your phone, you simply need to tilt the device in order to steer the car in a particular direction. When you bring it close to your ear to talk, the display shuts off and touch inputs don’t work. When you move out, the smartphone display immediately gets brighter. In effect, your smartphone is really smart, isn’t it?

All of these are possible with the help of sensors inside your smartphone chip. In this post, let’s look at these sensors in detail. In most of the smartphones, you have these sensors—accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, etc.

The sensors are built into handsets using Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS). In this technology, very tiny mechanical systems are incorporated into a tiny electronic chip. The latest iPhone 5 has an accelerometer, three-axis gyroscope, proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor, and GPS. With these sensors, iPhone can detect if you are turning the phone around, if you are near the phone or not, and what location you are in.

Here are the major sensors…

1. Accelerometer

This amazing sensor detects the acceleration your phone is experiencing when you move with it. It detects the g-force associated with the movement. It can automatically orient the phone according to the position you are holding it in. The accelerometer is a very tiny chip that has extremely tiny (around 500 microns thin) moving parts made of silicon.

iPhone accelerometer

Based on the movement associated with the phone, the g-force experienced varies. For instance, if you are dropping the phone or simply placing it somewhere, it will experience 1 g. An iPhone inside a heavily breaking Formula One car can experience a g-force between five and six.

In order to understand the technology behind this, I recommend this amazing video by the Engineer Guy:

2. Gyroscope

In fact, gyroscope is more of an orientation tool for your smartphone, rather than the accelerometer. Roll, pitch, and yaw of your phone will be automatically detected by the gyroscope.

A regular gyroscope that detects orientation is shown below.

Gyroscope

When you convert this equipment into a micro-electromechanical gyroscope, the size is in the order of a few millimeters.

It is with the help of this gyroscope and accelerometer the games are played on smartphones and tablets. Here is the iPhone 4 circuit board displaying the accelerometer and gyroscope placed adjacent to each other. LIS331DLH is the accelerometer chip, and larger L3G4200D is the gyroscope.

accelerometer and gyroscope on iphone

 

3. Magnetometer Compass

Your smartphone most probably has a compass built in; all of the latest do. The compass in your smartphone uses an MEMS magnetometer. It can measure the strength of the magnetic field experienced by your smartphone, in Tesla (the unit of magnetism). With the preinstalled compass app that works with this magnetometer, your smartphone can easily tell you which way is north and which is south. This is one of the most useful features of current smartphones.

Also, you should not expose your smartphone to any magnetic field for extended periods of time. It will recalibrate the magnetometer and will stop it from working. It will take days before the system gets recalibrated to the earth’s magnetic field. In this image, you can see the tiny magnetometer in iPhone 4.

magnetometer

 

4. Ambient Light Sensor

Haven’t you noticed the phone adjusting its display based on the lighting condition of the room? If you place the display brightness to automatic, the smartphone can detect the amount of light present to optimize its display brightness, so that you can view the contents on the screen more clearly. It also saves quite a bit of battery on the device, as it consumes less power when the display is dim. The auto-adjustment of display brightness reduces strain on your eyes, and protects the screen pixels.

When high level HDTVs, like 4K TVs for instance become more popular, ambient light sensors will be a necessity rather than an option. Here is a very detailed article on ambient light sensors by DisplayMate, a company which specializes in latest display technologies. The concern addressed in it is thus: the current ambient light sensors are probably gathering erroneous data about the ambient light, since you are looking directly at the device, and hence the device senses the brightness of your face rather than the light behind your head.

5. Proximity Sensor

Haven’t you noticed the display turning off when you are speaking on the phone? The smartphone detects it when it comes close to your ear and shuts off the display to save power and obviate unnecessary touch input. This job is done by the proximity sensor in the smartphone. Check out the image of the proximity sensor on Apple iPhone 5.

iPhone 5 proximity sensor

On most of the smartphones, the proximity sensor is at the top nearby the front-facing camera. There are various technologies involved in designing proximity sensors—capacitive, inductive, ultrasonic, etc.

Conclusion

These are some of the most prominent sensors on your smartphones. In fact, these sensors make a phone really smart! The Global Positioning System, GPS is also a sensor that relies on connection to three or four satellites to gather information about your phone’s global position. It is a technology better discussed in detail in another article.

Qualcomm Has Unveiled Faster Snapdragon Processors

Everyone knows about Qualcomm’s upper hand in mobile processor world. It powers more mobile handsets than any other processor manufacturer out there. Here is the market share given by Statista in 2011:

Mobile processor: global market share by vendors Q1-Q4 2011

We noticed Apple powering a huge number of smartphones. But you should know A6X chip is available only on iPhone. Samsung’s Exynos processor is available only on certain select models of Galaxy. And NVidia Tegra processors are coming on too few smartphones. The rest of them all use Qualcomm Snapdragon processors.

About five hundred devices (smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, etc.) use Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, and about 400 new devices will be released in the coming months. This year in CES, Qualcomm has announced the latest edition of Snapdragon series, four new processors—Snapdragon 200, 400, 600, and 800. CEO and chairman of Qualcomm, Dr. Paul Jacobs says Snapdragon 800 and 600 are the “most advanced wireless processors ever built”.

Snapdragon S1 to S4 and the S4’s sub series, Play, Plus, Pro, Prime, etc., will be obsolete now with the advent of this new series.

Snapdragon 600 and 800 are the high end versions of these processors, powered by the newest architecture by Qualcomm, quad-core Krait 300 and Krait 400 respectively. Now, what is Snapdragon and Krait all about?

Krait is Qualcomm’s custom designed processor architecture. It is slightly different from the major architecture developed by ARM to use with smartphones and tablets, known as ARM Cortex series. ARM Cortex and Krait use ARM’s instruction set architecture, ARMv7, v8, etc. About Krait 300 and 400, we don’t have more information yet.

In essence, Krait and ARM Cortex are processor architectures (designs), and Snapdragon and others like Tegra, Exynos, OMAP, etc., are processors based on one of these architectures. While Snapdragon uses Qualcomm’s own Krait, others use ARM Cortex architecture. All of these architectures use ARM’s own instruction set, ARMv7 or v8.

 

We know that the previous Krait architecture was a little more advanced than ARM Cortex-A9, and a little less advanced than Cortex-A15. Now, NVidia has released Tegra 4 based on Cortex-A15 architecture, and if Krait 300 and 400 are more advanced than Cortex-A15, then the current Snapdragon range should be faster and more advanced.

Features

 

Both Snapdragon 600 and 800 are quad-core CPUs.

A. Snapdragon 600

  • Uses Krait 300 architecture, and gives max speed of up to 1.9 GHz (per core).
  • Newer Adreno 320 graphics processing unit (the graphics card of the smartphone, built into the Snapdragon chip)
  • LPDDR3 RAM (Low power DDR3, which is the same as in several laptops and tablets)

On the top of that, Qualcomm has mentioned that the S 600 processor will provide 40 per cent more speed than S4 Pro processor.

B. Snapdragon 800

 

  • Uses Krait 400 quad-core architecture, providing speed of up to 2.3 GHz (per core)
  • Adreno 330 graphics chip
  • Two 32 bit LPDDR3 running at 800 MHz, providing data transfer of up to 12.8 GB per second.
  • 4G LTE Advanced (category 4) baseband chip
  • UltraHD support (4096×2304 px resolution) and HD audio
  • Dual image signal processors (supporting up to 55 MP camera, 3D capture, photo merging, etc.)
  • 75 per cent more performance than S4 Pro

 

These numbers and specifications are mentioned by Qualcomm in their press release of Snapdragon processors. It has to be seen how much the processor performs on a real device after it has been released, which is expected in March this year.

Snapdragon in the hand of Qualcomm CEO

 

Snapdragon 600 is for mid to high end smartphones to provide multimedia features, gaming, and web browsing with better battery life (according to Qualcomm, about fifty percent less power). Snapdragon 800 will replace S4 Prime processors and will power high end smartphones and smart TVs.

The best feature on Snapdragon 800 is the support for ultra HD video and image capture and playback. This means, it will deliver up to 4 times better quality than the currently available 1080p videos in HDTVs.

Another important feature is Qualcomm’s baseband chipset for LTE supporting speeds of up to 150 Mbps on this processor. Qualcomm is already a market leader in baseband and provides LTE baseband chipsets for a number of devices (including Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC One X, etc.)

Have you noticed the LTE versions of these smartphones use Qualcomm SoC, while the regular version of S3 uses Samsung’s Exynos and HTC One X uses Tegra 3 processor? This is in itself a silent approval of Qualcomm’s superiority in LTE baseband chipset design (which is approved by US carriers like Verizon and AT&T).

Conclusion

 

In the keynote by Dr. Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm CEO, the processor seems to be working perfectly with high definition gaming with 3D graphics. It seems to provide quite the amount of power as available in certain laptops. This is exactly what we want in the next generation tablets and smartphones. Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 and 600 will both power more than four hundred devices in the coming months.

Design Innovation Among Windows Tablets

Microsoft Windows 8 RT and Pro (what is the difference) have arrived and they are revolutionizing the tablet PC market. The specialty of Windows 8 Pro tablets is that they are as powerful as regular PCs (meaning, generally more powerful than Android tablets and Apple iPad), and they incorporate touch interface. A number of Windows tablets have been released recently, including Microsoft’s own Surface.

There are two versions of Windows 8—RT and regular (Win 8 and Pro). Windows RT is a toned-down version of Windows that runs on ARM-powered tablets~link. The tablets running Windows RT are generally not much different from other Android tablets in the market. They can run ARM-based apps made for Windows (available from Windows store), they are lightweight and come with generally low processing power as specified by Cortex series, and they cannot run regular Windows PC applications.

The other one, Windows tablets running Windows 8 and Pro are the ones that have PC-like features. They can run regular Windows applications without any issues. In this article, we are dealing with these tablets.

At this point, there is no necessity to look into the hardware features of Windows 8 tablets. Most of them have one of the high-end Intel processors onboard. Intel ATOM, third generation Core i3, i5, and i7 processors with multiple cores provide extreme processing power to these tablets.

A few currently available tablets are Asus’s range of TAICHI, ZenBook, Transformer Book, Vivo Book, etc., Samsung Series 7 tablets (Slates), Sony VAIO Tap 20, upcoming Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, Acer’s Iconia W7, DELL XPS 12 ultrabooks, etc.

At this point, customers are really confused as to which tablet PC is the best for them. It all depends on your budget and what you are going to do with the tablet. In terms of performance and features, most of these tablet PCs are already on par with each other. However, the major difference between them is in their design.

After Windows 8 was released and it incorporated the touch feature, tablet PC manufactures have been busy innovating in design. Some of the awesome designs in electronics can be found among Windows tablets today. Some designs are actually aimed at user convenience, while others are purely aesthetic. When you purchase a tablet, consider one that is appealing and with portable dimensions.

A Few Aesthetic Designs

 

Here are a few tablet designs that captured our eyes. There is no particular order of preference here. Just listing each alphabetically.

1. Acer Iconia W7

 

Acer Iconia W7

 

Heavier than iPad, Iconia W7 has a well-designed dock to which you can slide the tablet. Also, with a keyboard designed similar to Apple wireless keyboard used in iMac, Iconia has a highly appealing design.

2. Asus

 

Asus TAICHI

 

Asus has a number of Windows tablets. TAICHI is Asus’s premium design, and the most outstanding feature of this tablet PC is that it has two very similar screens: one regular screen that looks like a notebook’s and one outside screen with similar specifications. You may ask like several others do, is it worth it? The price of TAICHI is higher than necessary due to the presence of that extra screen.

Asus ZenBook

 

Here is Asus’s own extremely thin and light ZenBook Touch. This one clearly reminds me of Apple MacBook Air. You can’t discount these tablets based on lightweight, however. They run Intel Core i7 quad-core processor clocked around 3 GHz. And they are capable of running Windows 8 64 bit operating system.

3. Dell XPS Duo 12

 

Dell has a series of XPS tablet PCs that have uniquely appealing designs. Here, the tablet resides in a rectangular frame that allows rotation of the screen. Some may feel the rectangular frame is an unnecessary design approach that increases the weight and bulk of the tablet. However, there are also supporters for Dell’s design.

Dell XPS 12

 

The upcoming Intel Ultrabook Convertible is also of the similar design. To see it in action, you need to wait till the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week.

4. Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

 

With Yoga, Lenovo is trying to attract all sorts of customers. I believe some customers want their tablets to stand upright with a stand, some others want it to be sitting on top of its keyboard, and some others want it to work like a notebook. IdeaPad Yoga can work in four configurations—as a laptop, tablet, a tent (yes, a tent), and a tablet with a stand (similar to MS Surface). The tent and stand modes give you pretty much the same experience.

Also, in tablet mode, you cannot place Yoga on dusty or watery surfaces as tablet mode places the keyboard directly underneath.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

 

5. Sony VAIO

 

Sony VAIO Tap 20 is what you get if you are looking for a huge tablet. It has a 20 inch screen (diagonal measurement) and is probably the largest of all tablets with Windows. Tap 20 comes with wireless keyboard and mouse and an elegant stand at the back that looks much better than Surface’s. Also, Sony provides personalized engraving for your Tap 20.

Tap 20 Sony

 

Tap 20 engraving
Tap 20 engraving

 

Another VAIO brand product is Duo 11 Ultrabook that has a stand optimized to slide the screen over the keyboard.

VAIO Ultrabook

 

We have found most popular of the design among tablet PCs include the tablet and a thin wireless keyboard that has latches in place to lock into the tablet. This way, the tablet can be placed properly on a slanting plane. This configuration is most suitable for everyday computer users who love to tap on a QWERTY keyboard. Also, with a mouse option, some people may rarely use the touch input.

[Image credit: Ubergizmo]